Tapersticks are miniature table candlesticks used to hold wax tapers (sticks of wax with a wick in the middle). They are occasionally referred to as taper candlesticks.
Although tapersticks are similar in appearance to chambersticks ultimately they differ in design. Traditionally, chambersticks feature a shallow pan at the base of the stick. The purpose of this is to catch falling melted wax as the candle is carried through various rooms (chambers) throughout the house. Tapersticks do not tend to have this feature.
Baluster tapersticks were popular in the early 18th century. These were perfect miniature copies of contemporary candlesticks. Early examples had square, circular, hexagonal or octagonal bases and simple waisted sockets. However, mid-18th century fashions introduced gadrooning and fluting along with chased rococo decoration.
Tapersticks are designed specifically for holding thinner, tapered candles. These were frequently required in daily life during the 1700s. A notable household use was as a means of melting the wax seals that were used when sending letters. When melted, the wax could be impressed with an intaglio carved with initials or a crest.
Letter writing (and therefore sealing) was such a common activity that throughout the 18th and 19th centuries many inkstands were fitted with tapersticks. This allowed for easy access to the taperstick once the letter had been written.
In these instances, it is possible that the piece of silverware could have simultaneously both a taperstick and a chamberstick. This is because this style of taperstick was traditionally mounted to the centre of an inkstand. However, it also had a wax pan at the base which meant that it could be used as a chamberstick once it was removed from the inkstand.
Other uses for tapersticks included the lighting of tobacco pipes, as well as the more general use of lighting other candles.
Tapersticks, like many other items of antique collectable silverware, have their value determined by the level of craftsmanship and skill that was required to produce them. Figural tapersticks can command larger sums if they are of particular novelty value or are unusual in their subject matter.
Tapersticks are rarer than traditional candlesticks as few existed prior to the reign of Queen Anne. Tapersticks are often found individually; pairs of tapersticks retain a much higher value.
Jodie Smith – Copywriter
Jodie joined AC Silver in 2016 as a copywriter after completing a degree in English Literature, possessing a passion for jewellery and unusual antiquities combined with an interest in blogging.